Eritrean Resistance: Between the Hammer of the Media & the Anvil Of Polarization
On the twentieth of December 2009, Mr. Michael Abraha published an inflammatory article on the American Chronicle website in which he called for the unraveling and dissolution of the Awate institution, accusing the Awate.com website of being in serving the projects of Islamic extremism and boldly calling Mr. Saleh Johar, the editor of the website “President of the Extremist Awate Foundation” and attached his image on it. I suspected (and some suspicions lead to sin), that Mr. Michael was probably looking for a spotlight by attempting to ride the wave of the fight against terrorism. Maybe he had the illusion that Tomahawk cruise missiles would pour down on Awate website following the publication of his article; perhaps in his day dreams he saw the two Salehs ( Johar and Younis) been taken to the Guantanamo island based on the information that was discovered and generously offered by the volunteer detective Michael Abraha. Personally, I didn’t waste any time snooping at his allegations because I know that the Awate website had preceded Michael Abraha by a decade, not only in challenging extremism in all its forms, but by calling for national reconciliation—this can be certified by its enemies, let alone its friends. In any case, I am astonished to see a crow calling a white dove dark, and I echoed a poem:
Everyday I trained him on Archery,
And when his arms became stronger, he first shot at me.
No matter how much Mr. Michael Abraha attempts to cloak himself with “freedom of expression,” he can not cover his lack of professionalism, his lack of ethics and his extremist fanaticism; he has already deceived many of the leaders of the Eritrean opposition into a trap of his “interviews” and by editorializing political speeches by carefully choosing his victims. Michael Abraha’s list of victims include the great author Ustaz Omar Jaber, The Eritrean journalist Ustaz Habtom Yohannes” and to some degree (until it is proven otherwise) Ustaz Woldeyesus Ammar. Sheikh Hassan Salman was also the latest leader whom Michael targeted for the trap.
The inflammatory article referred to above was not written by Mr. Michael Abraha in search of limelight, but he wrote it in his attempt to escape forward, because Saleh Johar disappointed him by not taking the poisonous bait that Abraha presented in a plate—an interview with Habtom Yohannes, which was sent for publication to the Awate website. In essence, that “interview,” was presented as a kind of primitive surgery only to come out to the reader distorted and detrimental to the integrity of the interviewee—to the extent that it forced the journalist Habtom Yahhanes to stand up to defend his reputation by publishing a “response” and expose the falsehood and fraud which was brought forth by Michael Abraha.
Mr. Michael Abraha heralds in one of his ‘blessed’ appearances on Asmarino.com, and announced that CDRiE is launching a humanitarian arm to assist the Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, and that the generosity of this organization would extend to include the refugees in Sudan who would be provided with food and clothing (surely second-hand garments), medicine for Tuberculosis and Malaria. Thank you for this overflowing generosity, we really are in need of aid and humanitarian support, but, what is the population of those refugees who would be included in the generosity of this fledgling organization?
According to the estimation of the newborn “humanitarian” arm of the CDRiE (as indicated by Michael Abraha), we have more than forty-thousand refugees in Ethiopia, but the number of the Eritreans refugees in Sudan exceeds one hundred thousand. In other words, they are less than one hundred and fifty thousand, in all cases. 100,000 people? Glorious God! But Mr. Abraha did not tell us the source of these statistics; would Mr. Abraha, and later on CDRiE, reveal the source who taught them to mimic this statistics?
There is no doubt that these numbers are outright lies and are not based on any systematic and neutral census; they are not arbitrary; and they come in a harmonious context for serving chauvinistic and unpatriotic purposes. Some suspected circles, that, in one way or another, have ties with the sectarian regime in Asmara have been repeating it with the intention of belittling the number of the Eritrean refugee population in Sudan. The intention is to deny the refugees (or rather deny the bulk of them) the right to return to Eritrea as a prelude to declaring the Eritrean lowlands as Land Without People, and hence the application of the theory of “a land without people for a people without land” that is being implemented today in Eritrea, clause by clause. Sadly, the government of Isaias Afewerki in Asmara shows ingenuity in the use of human facades as a camouflage to hide its racist projects.
When Mr. Osman Saleh was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, the appointment was not done without thorough study of his personality traits. He has proven his loyalty and distinguished himself in the implementation of the Mother Tongue educational project (a synonym for the anti-bilingualism and biculturalism project against what was agreed upon by the Parliament during the Federal era of 1952). Osman Saleh has served as minister of education for a long time; as expected, he did not disappoint his respected leader, Isaias Afewerki. When Isaias dispatched him to the Sudan, he immediately tried to engage his nose in cases greater than himself and made statements (about the refugees in the Sudan) that made even the hardened criminals in the system, and the godfathers of the demographic change, feel ashamed of the ugliness of his statements. Truly, whoever said the following was right: an amateur shepherd races against the boulder rolling down from the summit of a mountain—Telai hadis Heroda Ltbaader. Osman Saleh made a statement and he didn’t apologize for that sin until today, meaning, his statement is not a slip of a tongue but a disclosure of a secret that was uttered by the senior and which the junior could not keep.
Such statistics and reckless divisions reflect only a cunning disguise behind which is a group of fanatical racists within the regime and among the “opposition.” It is also a centralized ring of a few people who nevertheless work actively and with vitality to the extent that they are enabled to suppress and overcome the vast majority of people by stealing their sincere efforts and directing it towards narrow sectarian goals.
The latest thing that Mr. Michael Abraha has discovered in his journey of rumbling, which he began with an attack on the Awate website, and didn’t stop in dwarfing the number of Eritrean refugees in the Sudan, is, that he reduced the Pillars of Islam from five to three—by dropping four pillars and adding two new, Shari’aa and Morals & Values, to the pillars of Islam. Thus, he ended up with three. Strange! Oh the honorable Michael Abraha, are the Pillars of Islam three? Is Shari’aa one of the Pillars of Islam?
…I will return back to the details of this mockery later in this article.
At the website of the Eritrean People’s Party “Nharnet,” there barricades a gang of professional media exaggerators and political falsifiers who celebrate anything that would drive a wedge of division to undermine the unity of the Eritrean body. The website has begun to gradually lower itself to become a breeding ground for extremists and amateurs of media exaggerations and falsifications: the likes of Michael Abraha and G. Ande. From my observation of that website, I found that there is a hidden goal that peeks and shows its head every now and then; the website, and those who are entrenched behind it are harnessing and confirming the demonization of the Eritrean Muslim community, a premeditated distorting of their image in an attempt to stick the label of terrorism on them. Note: when the international media announced the news of the arrest of five youngsters who hold American passports and who were charged with planning terrorist acts in Pakistan, the “Nharnet” website initiated the posting of the news immediately and the reason for that is because it was stated that one of the five youth was of an Eritrean ancestry. The Eritrean People’s Party (formerly) is a national organization packed with sincere patriotic leaders; but the thing that I did not find a convincing explanation for, so far, is, that Nharnet website represents the informational and cultural arm of the party and we find it not only embracing, but inciting sectarian agitation!
When Ustaz Ibrahim Mohammed Ali published his famous article on September 1, 2009, “For Whose Benefit Is The Insisting On Sectarian Segmentation?” in response to an article written by Ustaz Hamid Turki, it was natural that the article would be published at Nharnet website, but the malignant behavior and the deliberate falsification appeared in the English translation of the article. But not even Ustaz Ibrahim himself was aware of the distortion (I think so, given the fact that the tendentious translation has not been modified so far). The English version of the article appeared under the title “Sheikh Hamid Turki: Fomenting Religious Differences for What End, For Whose Benefit”. Observe the difference between the two headlines; and what is hidden was greater. I am not here to address the arguments that took place between Ustaz Ibrahim and Ustaz Turki, but I am here to criticize the counterfeiting and the veiled incitement that the Nharnet website played in dealing with the dispute by applying the slogan, “Give me an inch, I snatch a mile.” On this occasion, I cannot help but show respect to the two great men: Ustaz Ibrahim Mohamed Ali and Ustaz Hamid Turki.
‘We will not join the League of Arab States because it did not provide a thing.The Eritrean Ambassador (in Cairo) says,’ News of this type is received by Nharnet website with whistles and drums and it races against the wind to publish it without questioning, ‘who might the Eritrean Ambassador in Cairo be to decide for or against Eritrea joining any regional or international organization? The principle we should stick to, while we are in a struggle for the restoration of rights and the promotion of the concepts of political pluralism and democracy is to say, ‘let the people choose on their own,’ even if the people decide to join the group of Asian Tigers, then, it is the peoples’ choice.
Did the world calm down since Ustaz Weldeyesus Ammar shook it with his unexpected fiery statements: “Eritreans will not accept politics that would lead us towards creating a confessional state in Eritrea, or one that allows “Swat Valleys” in its belly.” No. Not yet. So, what caused all that steam? Is it rationally possible that Ustaz Ammar’s fiery pronouncements were a reason for that? In my opinion, the reasons lie in the following points:
First: The phrase has nothing to do with the reality of the Eritrean political landscape, where there are no visible indicators that can be described, or even compared with the situation in the Swat valley region of Pakistan. The Eritrean society is quite different from the society in the Swat Valley; the ethnic mingling and the social homogeneity in Eritrea cannot, in any way, be a ground for the realization of such experience. Even the Eritrean political organizations (including Islamic organizations) are characterized by an advanced political awareness of the requirements of the Eritrean people. That can be attested by their voluntary abandonment of the term Jihad, something they have adhered to until recently. Even their practiced Jihad cannot be described as terrorism but must be seen from the context of a political struggle (only different in name) to recover the usurped rights and protect what remains of the noble social values that the PFDJ trampled under its feet during the era of the liberation struggle—it is still trampling over it every day in “independent” Eritrea. The abandonment of the term Jihad is nothing but a product of a cumulative awareness of the importance of upholding national unity and a wish to demonstrate good intentions towards the stakeholders in the homeland, and in awareness of the sensitivity of the term, especially in a country shared by Muslims and their Christians brethren. But it would be a political stupidity to interpret these concessions as a sign of weakness and thus try to appeal to those organizations or try to pressure them to renounce Islam itself and its ethical and ritual essence. That holds an unpredictable risk in its course because it will inevitably change the indicators 180 degrees and perhaps, it may force us to repeat, “I cried help, I got Pharaoh instead.” I say this because I cannot understand the real motives of the campaigns by G. Ande and Michael Abraha, and before them, Isaias Afewerki and whoever circled in their orbits and demanded others to completely surrender and drop all their religious and social values.
Secondly: Mr. Woldeyesus Ammar, with his long experience in the struggle, and his wide knowledge of the components of the Eritrean societies, hit everyone by surprise and astonishment when he made the above mentioned statements; they are not in line with Ammar’s “experience”. Consequently, it raised many question marks because it simply appeared detached from its historical context.
Third: to add insult to injury, the person who conducted the interview with Ustaz Ammar, when he unexpectedly uttered those words, was no other but Michael Abraha himself—he is known for his shameful history during the struggle of the Eritrean people, and who lately became notorious for rigging and distorting interviews, and for practicing journalistic fraud—with solid evidence of course. I do not rule out that Ustaz Woldeyesus Ammar might have been pushed, (using the trap of course) to say those words that sparked all the controversy that the Eritrean opposition was not in need of.
As for the interview of Ustaz Omer Jabir by Mr. Michael Abraha (By the way, where is Mr. Omar Jaber these days?) which was posted on the Asmarino.com on October 7, 2009, it has been marked by absolutely bizarre questions to the extent it made me imagine that the man was carrying out a security investigation, not a journalistic interview. Michael the journalist introduced his interview, (on behalf of Omer of course) with sweet words like, “Muslems (sic) and Christians have lived in peace and harmony for centuries in Eritrea.” But these beautiful words seemed to be appetizers for a meal of empty bones considering what was in the details of the interview which focused in its totality, in trying to demonize Eritrean Muslims ‘by talking about Islamists,’ and their links to ‘foreign forces and organizations.’ Mr. Omar Jaber was not docile as his interviewer Michael Abraha imagined; most of Ustaz Omar’s answers indicate the man’s smartness and intellect; but the interviewer presented one question in many ways and caused confusion. The interview is very short but tense, intensive and captivating. Funny thing is that G. Ande published an article on Asamarino.com in the same week, in it he described Ustaz Omer Jabir as Mullah Jaber, analogous, of course, with Mullah Mohammad Omar (of Al Qaeda); but the article was withdrawn from the website hours after its publication and reappeared again the next day after it was surprisingly altered.
Ahmed Matar, the Iraqi poet said: With transgressions a thief presides a country. With transgressions Mr. Michael Abraha proved that, if he was put in a balancing scale, his weight would not equate the weight of a mosquito’s wing in the struggle against the tyranny of the ruling gang in Asmara. He is a political clown par excellence.
In addition to the above, we find him carrying out his transgressions to finally come to us with what he called “embracing unity in diversity”— his own Editorial of the paper prepared by Ustaz Hassan Salman, “National Harmony and The Question of Government and Religion”. I was not able to read Ustaz Hassan Salman’s speech in the original Arabic version, but Ustaz Hassan Salman is a responsible person and it is unimaginable; I bet that such utter mediocrity that Michael Abraha presented would not come from Ustaz Hassen—not because I know him, the truth is that I do not know him personally. But is it not my right to bet that Mr. Michael Abraha is a seasoned forger of interviews? On top of that, he is an untrustworthy person and untruthful communicator based on his insistence on fabricating and disseminating political bubbles. Mr. Michael Abraha presented the words of Ustaz Hassan Salman as follows:
I am not here to correct Mr. Michael Abraha’s fabrications because any Muslim child, five years of age, can answer the question concerning the number of the Pillars of Islam and what they are: 1) Shahada—witnessing one God, 2) Performing regular prayers, 3) Giving alms, 4) Fasting during the month of Ramadan, and 5) performing pilgrimage for those who able to practice it.
Then, what is the purpose of the stuffing Sharia’a out of place and considering it a Pillar of Islam? Mr. Michael Abraha knows fully how the word “Sharia’a” is perceived, in its stereotypical sense, in the perceptions of many non-Muslims and even among some Muslims. That stereotypical image that has been spread by the media, and which shows the chopping of the hands of a thief in the jungles of Somalia, or the flogging of a woman considered “indecent” in the Sudan, or the stoning of another woman in Afghanistan. Through the consecration of this concept, Mr. Michael tries to use Sharia’a as a scarecrow and Boogeyman to spread the spirit of fear and hatred among Eritreans—I have nothing to say to Mr. Michael other than to emphasize that Sharia’a is not a pillar of Islam; it is an Islamic law that organizes the affairs of Muslims concerning their transactions (and dealings)—I cannot go beyond that because of the limitations of my knowledge about the subject.
Are we to challenge the Camel by offering it free lesson to make it understand that its neck is twisted and not straight as it thinks?
Who is Mr. Michael Abraha to even accuse others of extremism? And who is he to allow himself to classify Eritreans whimsically? Is he not the same Michael Abraha who betrayed the Eritrean people in their time of distress and stood in the line of the Ethiopian enemy while our people carried out a battle of existence, “to be or not to be,” against the invasions of the monstrous Derg regime’s army? As the saying goes: men sheb ala sh’y’e shaba aleihi—if one grows up on something, he grays on it. Mr. Michael Abraha grew up fighting against the Eritrean people when he worked under the command of Major Dawit Welde Giorgis, the operational officer of the Ethiopian colonial army and the Senior Representative of the Derg Government in Eritrea (Check Michael Abraha’s own statements).
In the Eighties of the last century, Michael Abraha served as the “speech writer and press assistant.” Is it not our right to ask Mr. Michael Abraha an innocent question about the type of information that he was presenting to his chief Dawit Welde Giorgis? Was he providing him with the number of dead Eritrean combatants? Was he referring to those combatants as bandits in his media reports?
Mr. Michael Abraha should have been ashamed of his history, (for which no one is jealous) and remain silent as many others have done. He was supposed to prevent himself from fishing in troubled waters because Michael Abraha is only a relic of the colonial period and still maintains tremendous respect (in his own testimony) for his Ethiopian leader Major Dawit Welde Giorgis. The task of addressing the barbaric regime in Asmara, that oppresses our people, is not his concern at all—he only has to put brakes on his tongue and give the flour to the baker—his silence would be a blessing to the opposition.